Mayfield teenager Thomas McCarthy has promised to learn from his first National Elite Championship final bout and “be back better”, while Rio Olympian Brendan Irvine has backed head coach Zaur Antia to get Irish boxing back on track.
Cork native McCarthy put up a gutsy effort at Dublin’s National Stadium on Friday night, testing European Games silver medallist Irvine over the first two rounds of their clash before the Belfast champion pulled away in the final round to retain his 52kg Irish flyweight title on a unanimous decision.
“I gave it my heart and that’s all I could do,” said first-time elite finalist McCarthy.
“I was boxing an Olympian. Some people would pull out of the fight, some people would be afraid, I just went in and gave it my all and it was close. At the age of only 18, I’ll be back better,” added the Mayfield clubman, who admitted that Irvine’s experience made the difference.
“That’s what it was - a bit of experience and better training. I’m only a club trainer, I train very hard, but he’s up in the elites [High Performance] training camp,” said McCarthy.
“I wouldn’t say he pulled away, but he came on strong. I’ll be back and I’m delighted where I stand at 18 years of age, to be in an elite final - that’s things people dream of. I put it up to an Olympian, a European Games silver medallist, I’m dead proud,” continued McCarthy, who hopes to close the gap on his domestic rival.
“I think I’m going to be up at the elite training. The two finalists go up for elite training, so I’ll have bags of sparring and I’ll be back for next year,” he added.
Meanwhile, Irvine has predicted Antia will get Irish boxing back in order following the disappointment of last year’s Olympic Games.
Twenty-year-old Irvine performed admirably in Rio - losing out to gold medallist Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan – but the campaign was a disaster as Irish boxers returned home empty handed from an Olympics for the first time since Athens 2004.
“You just have to keep having faith in Irish boxers,” said Irvine.
“You can’t just lose faith. It’s like a football team that have a bad game or whatever, you can’t just start criticising players just because they have one bad game.
"It just wasn’t meant to be in the Olympics… Irish boxing is only going to get better with what’s coming through and Zaur in the corner,” added the European Games silver medallist, who opted against following the likes of Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes into the professional ranks.
Irvine was one of three male champions to retain their titles, along with Belfast bantam Kurt Walker (56kg) and Darren O’Neill (91kg) – the latter claiming his seventh elite title and third heavyweight belt in a row.
Ahead of the European and World Championships this year, Irvine said: “This year’s the year for Irish boxing … so much to look forward to in a short space of time.”
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